I experienced my first loss 2 years ago after having had two normal pregnancies. I fell pregnant and had all the usual symptoms I'd had in my other pregnancies... that was until I started to experience some spotting.
I knew this could be normal but I mentioned it at my antenatal appointment anyway. They didn’t seem overly concerned and it was reassuring that a scan had shown a heartbeat and size matching my dates. I took comfort in the fact that they didn’t race me out to do another scan. I thought, ‘Surely if my baby had died it would be a big deal and they would have organised a scan...?’
Still, I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right and the spotting became regular. It got to a point where at my parents, the spotting turned bright red. My heart sank and I took myself to hospital. Again there was no sense of urgency and they did some blood tests. Finally late that night a doctor came to confirm that I was ‘very much pregnant’. I was well aware that the pregnancy hormone could take time to decrease and so it may not be as good as he thought. I was beginning to feel frustrated. I wanted a scan, I wanted confirmation that it was ok. Still, despite no firm answer, I was sent home.
The next day, still feeling uneasy I went back. This time they used a small machine. I should have been 11 weeks and I knew they should easily be able to see the heartbeat, but he couldn’t. They arranged for me to have a proper scan later that day but in my heart I knew. I went in by myself and the sonographer did an internal but said nothing. The silence felt like years and finally she turned the screen and my heart sank, “I will show you what I’m looking at” she said. “Here is the fetus but there is no heartbeat, it stopped growing 2 weeks ago.”
With that, she left me with tissues and told me to wait for someone to take me to a cubicle and wait for the doctor. I waited for 1 hour for the doctor to confirm what I knew. He said they will arrange an appointment for later in the week to decide what we do. He only explained that it would be like a heavy period if it passed first. I was screaming inside, I didn’t want to wait, I wanted this over and done with, I felt like I was drowning.
I walked out on my own and wondered how people were just getting on with life whilst I felt like I was in a hole I couldn’t get out of. The following day the bleeding was so severe I went back to hospital and finally had a D&C. I had passed out twice and needed my car seat replaced as I had bled all over it. I got the usual reactions ‘be grateful’ etc and I felt no one understood. This wasn’t just about the physical loss, it was the loss of hopes and dreams. A whole life just wiped.
The doctors referred to ‘products of conception’ and a follow up scan showed ‘retained product’. I wish I had felt like I do now, where I would correct them. It isn’t a product of conception to me or retained product. It is my child and when speaking to me they should reference that instead. That loss was a result of Trisomy 15, ‘incompatible with life’ – another medical term which shouldn’t be mentioned to a mother who has lost a child.
I thought that loss was possibly a random stroke of bad luck, so when I fell pregnant again I thought surely it won’t happen again. Sure enough though the spotting started. I went to hospital and had the scans and test to confirm the worst – I was 6 weeks and lost again. They did a D&C this time due to my history of bleeding and I did lose a lot in theatre.
I was reluctant to try again but I fell pregnant easily. This time was different, I feared every time I went to the toilet, I wiped and wiped too scared to look. It consumed me, all day every day. Counting the days until I passed the last one. I organised a scan just past the last point and to my relief it was good. We got to 10 weeks and I almost let myself think it was ok. I felt sick having a scan and almost didn’t want to have any – my anxiety was growing. I went away for work and at Melbourne airport, in the toilet my fears came flooding back when I saw spotting. I flew to Sydney for work with this sinking feeling.
The next day the spotting was still there and as soon as I landed I went to the GP. He called the gyno who was luckily still there and told me to come in first thing in the morning. I went in bang on time, he used the machine in his room – 6 days after my last healthy scan. He couldn’t find a heartbeat but told me to go across to get an internal as they have more sensitive machines. Maybe he was trying to give me a glimmer of hope, but I knew. The woman across the road was gentle in her speech… there was no heartbeat and it looked recent. Off I went and had another D&C, this time it was tested and it was a girl with Turner’s Syndrome, another random problem.
I had blood tests, my husband and I had genetic testing but it was all normal. We were told it was age related as I was pushing 40. With that D&C, I almost felt relieved – happy almost when I got out. Not happy for the loss but there was this enormous weight lifted, like
I could breathe, I no longer had to fear going to the toilet or worrying about when the loss would happen – somehow I was always expecting it.
My fourth loss happened early and passed it naturally. I was emotionally spent, I couldn’t do it again. It was only then that it hit me – I noticed pregnant women and I can’t look at newborns without sadness, even 2 years on and 4 losses later it sits in the background. I don’t think of pregnancy in the same way. I don’t assume there will be a baby at the end of a pregnancy. I wouldn’t think about what occasions I’d miss out on having a drink at, rather I would be hoping I don’t miscarry at the event.
Everything about pregnancy revolves around not losing it. It has lost its innocence and that is sad in itself. I also only now feel incredible guilty about 3 losses that were D&C (2 of them were girls), were not returned to me. That they would have just been declared medical waste. I feel guilty as a mother, for not even asking if I could have them. I don’t know why I didn’t, maybe I didn’t feel myself that it was a valid thing to ask for. I should have been offered the option, the medical world should have acknowledged that these were real losses, they had heartbeats and limbs and the beginnings of everything else. Yet, they aren’t treated as a life and I feel I let them down. This is compounded by the fact that in Victoria, early loss isn’t recognised, you can’t get an early loss certificate. My 2 girls and 2 which I don’t know the gender of were real people who had the rudimentary pieces of life. They deserve to be recognised.
The raw emotion has subsided but I think of them daily, seeing children who are the same age now make me think about what they would be like. It has become easier but my 4 angels will forever have left an impression and I’m grateful for their fleeting presence.